The Mind of Evil
The fact that it only exists in black and white only adds to the grittier atmosphere, the final time a Pertwee story would opt for realism. Jon's on good form again too - just look at how he ad-libs an "oh, sorry" to a man who he hits with his cape, remaining perfectly in character. And "for the benefit of the less-sophisticated members of my audience, I will explain in very simple terms" is an astoundingly witty way to deliver the exposition.
The direction is a cut above average, the performances are strong, and, as the first story I've watched since the crushingly slow and shallow Seeds of Death, then it's surprisingly pacy and sophisticated. It's galling to me to admit that Pertwee's first six stories were a step up in quality from the end of The Mighty Trout's reign, but a step up they were. Some say this one was inspired by A Clockwork Orange, and a plot where men can die from their fears is the sort of concept The X-Files would kill for. (In fact they did just that in the second season, didn't they?)
Only sore point is the peace conference - not the concept, which is amazingly topical, but just the way it's introduced in its "Doctor, you know I mentioned it was the first World Peace Day…" kind of way. A downturn is taken when we join UNIT, Captain Yates mincing and pursing his lips while all the time trying to convince us he's hetero with "she's quite a dolly!" Meanwhile, the daft bint out of Mind Your Language ("Chairman Mao!") burns some top secret papers in full view of the UNIT building she's just left. And, sadly, Jon has to end the episode with an embarrassing gurn. Oh well…
Roger Delgado makes his return appearance in this episode, and even though he can't get that boiler coat off in time, he still manages to make it look cool and not a mistake. (See also: his slips on water in the following episode). In support of Paul Cornell's "Old Boy's Club" take on Terror of the Autons, he's seen puffing on a cigar here.
"We're moving the Thunderbolt" "The what?" Moments like that are contrived, though the script wittily casts the Brigadier as a minor bigot - something fans would perhaps be uncomfortable with. Why a guard should have a handgun in a wooden box and leave it on a prisoner's bed escapes me - did I miss something? - though discussion on the nature of evil in this one is most welcome.
"Right, Doctor" says Delgado after instigating a full prison riot, "now I'm ready for you." Cool or what? Though if the painfully acted cliffhanger is to be taken notice of, then apparently the Doctor cacks himself at the thought of the Zarbi.
It's a fun rarity to see a Who story with a considerable budget. In fact, this one infamously went over, with huge convoys and nerve missiles making up its content. There's also some stunt motorbike action with Yates, which means I can get to make the pathetic "Mind of Evil Knievil" pun that I've been waiting three episodes for.
The UNIT march on Stangmoor is padding, sure, but it's very well directed and doesn't feel as artificial as later efforts. There's also some pleasant and unusual music from Dudley Simpson, one of his best and most overlooked scores. An unpleasant scene though sees Jo picking up food to eat off the floor. Cor blimey, where were you dragged up, love?
It ends with an explosion, but Timothy Combe's direction makes it all so impressive somehow. The Doctor's resentment at being exiled is also nicely played upon, even if it is turned into a joke at the end.
A strong, solid story that mixes Bond-style ambition with bold production values and some intelligent commentary.
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